BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Life’s, er, ruff when you’re pound puppy.
But Bridgeport Animal Control leaders hope a new volunteer dog-walking program for city employees will help turn stressed-out shelter denizens into man’s best friends.
More than 5,000 city employees can sign up to spend 30 to 40 minutes of their work day playing with and walking dogs. It’s part of an overall effort to help enrich the animals, keep them fit and make them more adoptable.
“My main focus is preparing them for their forever home – and we have so many wonderful, loving dogs in Bridgeport that need a new family,” said Jennifer Wallace, the city’s chief animal control officer. “The volunteer dog-walking program is just one of a number of new strategies we are implementing to increase the positive interaction between dogs and people so it will be easier for them to transition to new surroundings.”
Mayor Joe Ganim and Police Chief AJ Perez stopped by the shelter Thursday to meet some of the dogs and take a tour of the facilities, which moved from a former site on Asylum Street.
“I remember Asylum Street,” Perez said. “It was like a torture chamber there.”
The newer facilities on Evergreen Street include dog runs, where shelter staff pipe in “bio-acoustically designed” classical music for the canines, Wallace said. A pheromone diffuser helps lessen stress levels in both the roughly 30 cats and 40 dogs on the premises, she said.
New “Treat for Quiet” training teaches dogs to greet potential “parents” politely and feather wands are left near kitty cages to encourage those passing through to interact with them.
“We’re looking for all aspects of the dog’s life here,” Wallace said.
The shelter is now accepting applications for the dog-walking program and volunteers will receive orientation training. Applications are available at the Bridgeport Animal Control located at 236 Evergreen Street or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wallace said she hopes to open the program to the public in the future, a move several city residents have requested. For more information on Bridgeport Animal Control, visit its Facebook page.
Ganim seemed particularly taken with Duke, a rough-around-the-edges soft-coated Wheaten terrier. He grabbed his leash and trotted him around the parking lot — before Duke decided to relieve himself on a nearby car.
“C’mon, Duke,” Ganim said, looking a little sheepish.
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